Ships and boats

From the story of the world's only surviving tea clipper, Cutty Sark, and the voyages of discovery made by Captain Cook's sloop HMS Resolution, to the evolution of shipbuilding and design through the ages, we delve into the fascinating history of ships and boats.

Full hull model of 'Mary Rose' (1509), a 60-gun sailing warship D8553-1_slider.JPG

The Mary Rose was a warship built in Portsmouth for King Henry VIII. It sank in 1545 and was recovered in 1981, with many artefacts still on board.


Life at sea during the age of sail was filled with hardship. Sailors had to accept cramped conditions, disease, poor food, pay and bad weather.

Copper sheathing on hulls and lighter cannons are two examples of improvements in Royal Navy ship design in the 18th century.

Views in the South Seas... The Resolution beating through the ice with the Discovery in the most eminent danger in the distance.jpg

All of Cook's remarkable discoveries were undertaken in relatively humble ships designed for hauling coal. 

Samuel Plimsoll PU3701_slider.JPG

In the 19th century, MP Samuel Plimsoll campaigned for load lines to be painted on the side of ships to prevent them being overloaded and sinking.

D6955 'Dolphin', port_slider.JPG

While almost every ship model is different in its treatment of hull form and details, they fall into two principal types: the frame model and the block model. 

Launch of a ship: The 'Royal George' at Deptford showing the launch of the 'Cambridge'_attraction_slider.jpg

Launching ceremonies of times past were often more barbarous than the champagne tradition of today.

Shipbuilding on the Thames at Redriff BHC1868_slider.JPG

From Viking longships and 14th century carracks to 18th century battleships, the way ships were built evolved greatly between 800 and 1800.

Ship of 38 guns deck detail with ship's boats D4080_5_slider.JPG

Models of Royal Navy ships were made by order of the Navy Board. Little is known about the men who built these models but, thanks to their surviving works, we know how their models were made.


HMS Victory was Lord Nelson's flagship in his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.